Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Pirates add Morris, lose again
Yesterday, the Pirates traded back-up centerfielder Rajai Davis and a player to be named later to the Giants for veteran starter Matt Morris. Where should I begin? I think I will tell a story.
Let's start before the 2006 season. The Pirates sign/trade for Jeromy Burnitz (2006 stats-.230/.289/.422, 2006 salary-$6 Million), Joe Randa (.267/.316/.388, $4 million), Sean Casey (.289/.354/.381, $8.5 million) and Roberto Hernandez (2.93 ERA 1.63 WHIP, $2.75 million ). Overall, that is approximately $21.25 million* for a decent reliever and three below average position players. Burnitz and Randa were on the bench by the halfway point and retired after the season, while Casey and Hernandez were traded at the deadline.
Fast forward to June 2006. The Pirates have absolutely no catching depth in the organization. Zero prospects. The only true catcher on the 40-man roster is producing below replacement-level results, while playing poor defense. With the fourth overall pick in the amateur draft, the Pirates pass on top catching prospect Matt Wieters and choose college pitcher Daniel Moskos, who projects as a reliever in the Major Leagues. Most likely, the expected $10 million signing bonus for Wieters discouraged the Pirates from drafting him. They signed Moskos for a $2.475 million bonus.
Now it is July 31, 2007. Major League Baseball's trade deadline is at 4:00 PM EST. Many teams are looking for bullpen help, and most are overpaying to acquire it. The Pirates possess some of the better available relievers in Damaso Marte, Shawn Chacon and Salomon Torres. With a team batting line of .251/.311/.385, the team is ranked 26th in AVG, 30th in OBP and 28th in SLG. The team is in a good position to deal some relievers and add something to a lineup that desperately needs it.
However, the Pirates went a different route. Apparently, they spent most of the day trying to work out a deal that would send Jack Wilson to the Tigers and remove some of his salary from their payroll. As 4:00 approached and the two teams had yet to work out an agreement, Dave Littlefield apparently panicked. He suddenly joined the negotiations for Morris and agreed to do what no other team would, absorb all of his salary. In the end, the Pirates will pay Morris $15.7 million at the very least.
In Morris, the Pirates are receiving a mediocre to below-average pitcher who will eat some innings. It won't hurt to have a veteran presence in a young rotation, and the team did not give up much to acquire Morris. But that is not the issue. We hear quite a bit about how the Pirates will not spend what is necessary to compete, and that is true. But the bigger problem is the poor decisions the Pirates make when they do spend money. They have paid Burnitz, Randa, Casey, and Hernandez approximately $21.25 million* and will pay Morris $15.7 million (a total of almost $37 million of nearly worthless spending), but refuse to spend any money on top draft picks. As a result, they have one of the worst farm systems in the league and a lousy Major League club.
Another problem with this deal is the fact that the team desperately needs hitting. The Pirates are not losing because Tony Armas is having a lousy year as the fifth starter. They are losing because only one player has an OPS over .800 on the season. That is absolutely terrible. Littlefield ignored his most glaring need and also ignored his most valuable trade bait (bullpen). That is a great method to use in order to better the team. This trade was made as if we are one veteran pitcher away from competing. Does anyone watching this team actually believe that?
By the way, the Pirates lost to the Cardinals last night. Ronny Paulino nearly caused me to punch a hole in the wall, and Xavier Nady left the game with a hamstring problem. Albert Pujols caused that injury by faking that a throw was coming as Nady returned to first after a flyout to center in the fourth. Nady lunged for the bag, stretching his hamstring farther than it could be stretched. If I were in charge, Pujols would be watching out for his ribs each time he comes to the plate tonight. But of course, I am just a pissed off Pirate fan.
*This amount was actually lower, as the Reds picked up a small portion of Casey's contract and the Pirates saved money when they dealt Casey and Hernandez on July 31.